For Battlestar Galactica fans, she is D'Anna Biers, the awesome kick-ass Cylon. To others, she is the leggy blonde winning votes on Celebrity Duets. But for lesbian and gay fans, Lucy Lawless will eternally be Xena. And for Amy Matheny, host of Windy City Queercast, after years conceiving the smash hit Xena Live! and starring as Gabrielle for About Face Theatre, she finally got the opportunity to go head to head with her Warrior Princess.
Amy Matheny: Hi Lucy! How are you?
Lucy Lawless: Hi. I am a box of birds.
AM: You're a 'box of birds?'
LL: That means, very well indeed, thank you.
AM: I love it! A little New Zealand right off the top. What do you miss about New Zealand?
LL: I miss the gray and the green of Auckland, instead of everything being just tawny brown everywhere I look. I miss the moody skies of Auckland, and the sparkling harbor. But that's about it. I really am not a tremendously sentimental person, I'm horrified to say. I just don't have that gene. Everything I have is with me—my friends and my family, and nothing else really matters.
AM: So what do you miss about Xena?
LL: Not that I miss it, but what I value most of that memory is the camaraderie. The fact that I worked on a show where there was zero bitchiness. There was no finger-pointing, no blaming and the show was even greater than the sum of its parts. And how lucky was I to get a co-star like Renee O'Connor who was not a pain in the ass, who was good at her job, who was inspirational to me [ and ] who never stopped working like a Trojan? She was really my greatest ally.
AM: Were you happy that the relationship of Xena and Gabrielle was finally made crystal clear at the end of the series? I'm going to hold you to the wall to say they are lesbians, right?
LL: Well, I was pissed at that. OK. If you were going to make her a lesbian, why not do it ages ago? What's this waffling around? And it made a liar out of me because all those years I said, 'Well, she might not be, it's up to the audience.' Well, were [ the producers ] planning it from the start? Why couldn't you just be brave about it? I think that they just never made up their minds and were so busy telling stories of adventure, that the internal adventure or details like [ their sexuality ] were not really important, you know? Like it doesn't matter what sexuality a firefighter is; they do their job to the best of their ability and their sexual preference or gender identity is really of no consequence. So I think that's why it was never explored. But I feel like I'd been made a bit of a, I felt a bit of a dick, you know?
AM: They also probably discovered it while filming. They realized the amazing chemistry between the two of you, and the audience they were attracting, so they were able to develop that relationship and create a history for Xena that had some key important women.
LL: There may be some truth in what you say.
AM: [ The producers also must have thought ] these women look really good on screen together and we should put them in a hot tub.
LL: It was the lesbian audience that actually brought that to the forefront. But knowing Rob [ Tapert, producer and Lucy's husband ] and [ openly lesbian producer ] Liz Friedman as I do…. it just could not have been lost on Liz, who was there at the character's inception. This was a natural outcome of having these two kick-ass chicks wandering through life together. So it can't have been altogether unexpected. Except by me and Renee, who were just thrilled to have a gig!
AM: So were you okay with her death in the end? It's fairly controversial.
LL: I know. When I see that now I kind of regret that, because of how much it hurt people. I know it sounds silly to the uninitiated out there, but if they had done something to Tony Soprano, I would have wept. So, finally, I understood what was at stake for the audience.
AM: Is there an update on a Xena movie?
LL: I would love to say there was, but it will just be filibustered to death. It's all about the rights. It's a big legal question because there was some sort of screw-up in the paperwork, so nobody knows who owns it, legally. It's killing me that someday somebody will say, 'Oh why don't we resurrect that character?' and it will be like, 'Let's get a young Lucy Lawless.' [ Laughing ]
AM: You continue to work with your Xena castmates. You were in Spiderman with Ted ( Raimi/Joxer ) , directed by Sam Raimi ( Xena director ) , and you just filmed an episode of Burn Notice with Bruce Campbell.
LL: I love hanging out with Bruce, Ted, Renee. They're the most talented, wonderful, generous human beings. I have to thank Bruce for Burn Notice. He championed me for the role, and it's an awesome show! I've been trying to do other things since Xena to explore other sides of my talents and this time it's like, shit man, this is what people want to see me do. This is what differentiates me from 99 percent of the other actresses out there, because I can do this without even thinking about it. Sometimes you've got to go with your natural schtick.
AM: The critical success of Battlestar Galactica is extraordinary. Are you returning next season?
LL: I'm so glad people like it and, yes, I am coming back. We're filming a couple of episodes next month. D'Anna comes back and she, no doubt, will get up to her old tricks. Certain people want to use her for the information she has gleaned in her experiments between lives. It's about how will she handle that.
AM: My guilty pleasure is BBC's Footballers Wives. So when they cast you to play vixen Tanya Turner in the American version on ABC, I was thrilled. But then it did not get picked up. What the hell happened?
LL: I don't believe that it will ever happen. The people that own the property own ESPN, and showing those American superstars with somebody else's naked wife is not commensurate with the image that they want to put out. That's just my kooky little conspiracy theory. It's so funny because in American media, everything is about the train wrecks. It's about Paris Hilton, and Britney with her ass hanging out at the bloody shopping mall. So being completely rich sells. Sadly [ the show ] would bring more glamour to ill-behaved football stars than they ever had before. It would not hurt them in any way, so it seems peculiar to me, but that's the way they want to play it. Ta-ta.
AM: You are coming to Chicago to Buddy Guy's Legends after your huge sold-out run at the Roxy in Hollywood. You have said, 'this performance is the soundtrack of my life.' What songs are you doing, and how do they connect to your life?
LL: I'll Stand By You; that's really about the connection between these Xena fans. They have built a community of support that goes way beyond the show. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities that Renee and I align ourselves with. We try to be very responsible about what we give our name to because we know that we drag this incredibly generous loyal fan base everywhere we go.
Also, I love my audience from the gay community. I never want to dishonor them. I'm interested in equality of all folks.
AM: I know you headlined Grease on Broadway, but I think you need to do a big comedy. You're hilarious when you pull up your comedic straps.
LL: Yeah, I strap it on for this show. Don't you worry.
AM: Thank you, Lucy. I appreciate that.
LL: My pleasure.
AM: You are also making an appearance at the Official Xena Convention. It's the first time ever you and Renee are both going to be in Chicago.
LL: And we're raising money for the United Way in Chicago [ with all proceeds from autographed pictures ] .
AM: If you were playing a lesbian in a film, whom would you want as your co-star?
LL: Renee O'Connor. Now I've got a question for you. The number one and two lesbian icons in the world are Xena and Gabrielle—NOT in that order. So is it a compliment to me that they want to be Gabrielle? Or is it a compliment to Renee that they want to be Gabrielle?
AM: Lucy, you are asking the wrong person. Because I wanted to be Gabrielle so badly that I created an entire stage show so that Xena Warrior Princess could save me.
LL: So they want a great big strong lesbian to come up and throw them over their shoulder?
AM: In leather, yeah!…on a horse. That would be great! And maybe some baths involved.
LL: [ Laughing ] Well, I am going to tell Renee this because she is always going, 'Ha, ha, ha' to me. So I am taking your opinion to the bank.
Lucy Lawless appears at Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, Fri.-Sat., Oct. 5-6. For info and tickets visit www.lucyconcert.com . Also, she will appear at the Official XENA Convention with Renee O'Connor Sat.-Sun., Oct 6-7, at the O'Hare Wyndham Hotel, 6810 N. Mannheim, Rosemont; for more, see www.creationent.com . To listen to this entire interview, visit www.windycityqueercast.com .